• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Seeking advice: land, and a quick, cheap, temporary living space?

 
Aria Stroph
Posts: 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've been interested in permaculture and natural building for a few years now, and have been reading and watching videos voraciously. I'm currently in school (graduating in May!), and my partner and I have been considering what we want to do next. Our "dream" is to live on a plot of land (~5 acres, though the more the better) where we can build a modest home and produce most of our family's basic needs through permaculture practices (particularly woodland gardens/food forests, aquaculture, and heavy emphasis on "useful" fungi), with small sources of income to supplement. Of course, with both of us having been students so recently, we have very little money, and a small chunk of debt (student loans, so not worth it!). So that's the situation, now for the "plan":

At the end of May, once I have completed school and my partner's current job contract is up, we would very much like to move away, leaving behind the city and the life of renting apartments for $8,000 a year. We have somewhat narrowed our desired destination down to three options: Northern Florida, coastal North Carolina (or maybe SC), or Western Oregon (the warmer, the better). Each have their pros and cons, which I won't get into here, but suffice it to say that I'm pushing for FL due to the affordable land, low taxes, and warm weather (I want to grow subtropical plants!).

I would love to just jump right in, buy a plot of land, and magically build a house to live in so we can begin working on the gardening aspects, but alas, I'm no millionaire. We need time to save money, research available land, and so many other things first. However, I'm scared of getting trapped in the "rent to survive" system, living paycheck to paycheck and barely saving a dime while wasting time. I'm so eager to get started, I almost can't bear having to wait until next summer! I would go crazy knowing that it would be many years before I can put my first trees in the ground.

As it stands, I think we could find the money to purchase a few acres somewhere affordable like north FL by the time summer rolls around. But this would leave us without much money, and no place to live (unless we get extremely lucky and find cheap land with a livable home on it). Though I would be willing to live in a tent for a year while building a house, my partner wants (and deserves) slightly more modern accommodations. We've discussed many options, the most reasonable of which are probably either purchasing a used camper or RV, or building some sort of temporary, sturdy shelter.

So, as long-winded as this introduction has been, the advice I am seeking is: Is this possible? Assuming we can afford the land and have...let's say $3000 left over, what methods could we pursue to stay alive while working towards our dream? I'm willing to have a proper job if necessary, of course, but time spent working for money is time not spent working on the house/garden/whatever, and as I mentioned before, I don't want to become trapped wasting time.
I would greatly appreciate a discussion on cheap & quick-to-build shelters, obtaining affordable land, and surviving on little money while building a homestead. Other topics, such as building/zoning codes in north FL or whatever you think is relevant, are also welcome. Thanks for your help, this is a great community!
 
              
Posts: 31
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Howdy,

I read a book called "trailer homesteading" or something like that. it might be an interesting read for you.
 
Shawn Bell
Posts: 156
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Aria,

My suggestion to you would be for you both to work. Pay off your school loans, then pay off your land.

Once, you are debt free you can use the extra money to set up your homestead the right way.

It may take several years to get to a point where you can quit work and survive comfortably,
but it will be well worth the effort.

The only experiential advice I can give you, is it sucks to try to build/repair/plant something with no
money. Right now I am looking for work so I can fund my homestead.

Follow your dream, it is a good one.

Shawn
 
Mike Dayton
Posts: 149
Location: sw pa zone 5
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Travel trailers can be made very livable, especially in warm areas. If you do not have to worry about winter heating costs older used trailers can be bought quite cheaply. Plus you can sell it when you get your home built. You will still have the cost of water and depending on zoning some type of sewage system. If the Local area allows composting toilets or out houses it will cut your start up costs by $1,000's of dollars. Adding a porch roof along the lenght of the trailer will greatly increase your living area. Go in with your eyes open, make a list of things you will need and the cost of each item. Be realalistic, do not under estimate the costs to make yourself feel better. Try and see what you can do with out, you might be surprised how cheaply you can live if you really want to save for your dream homestead. Buy the land, then move to that area even if you have to rent. You can both find work and build up your nest egg while you start planting trees, improving the soil etc. The land is the most important item on your list, if you find the place you truely want at a price you can afford buy it. Do not wait, pull the trigger. Good luck with your plan, I hope you can find the place of your dreams.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9420
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
162
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Try to develop a home business. That's what my husband and I did. We worked for about 4 years as employees to save up money to buy land for cash, then bought an inexpensive home on a mortgage (could have done this a lot more cheaply), and have a couple of home businesses which support us modestly as we try to develop our permaculture homestead.
 
Aria Stroph
Posts: 6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Lots of good advice here, thanks for the quick replies! To clear up the school loans: they are my partner's, and there is some sort of reasonable monthly payment plan in place. I don't think we will be paying large sums of money up front in order to pay off the loans early; my partner will be working to pay off the loans over time. So that debt will not be holding us back from purchasing land first, and we have no other debt.

I like the idea of putting a porch roof on a travel trailer. That would definitely make it more spacious and comfortable, especially somewhere like Florida. And I agree that getting the land soonest is best. Building good soil and growing trees takes time.

A home business is another great idea, and something that we've definitely considered. However, we're not really sure what we have to offer! I would be happy growing food as a source of income, but obviously that can't be done until after I've got land and good soil... Perhaps some business conducted via the internet, though I have no idea what.
 
Yukio Nakadai
Posts: 4
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cool! A few thoughts:
- Income based repayment is a must for loans, if you're eking a subsistence living, they will probably ask you to make a very small or minimal monthly payment. Look into it.
- A trailer is poison, I wouldn't subject anyone I love to living in one. The amount of toxic plastics, heavy metals, and mold potential in a humid climate make them a definite lifespan-shortener.
- I'm also looking at coastal NC (NE, inner banks), for me it's close to home and a beautiful area. Keep in mind, though, projections of sea level rise that come with climate change. All of coastal VA/NC is very flat and prone to tidal and storm surge flooding. Picking something a little further inland might increase the lifespan of the acreage. Also, start investigating salt and waterlog-tolerant plants and natives that prevent erosion.

$3000 is way more than enough to build a small stick-built shed to live in, and then use as storage later on. Seems like a better option all around.
 
Deb Stephens
Posts: 375
Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
18
books dog food preservation forest garden goat trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Aria,

You did not mention what degrees you and your partner are graduating with. I am not asking just to be nosey -- if your degrees are in natural sciences, agriculture or the like, or if you have real-life experience with animals or crops, etc., you may find that someone who has land (and maybe even a house already in place) may be interested in letting you live on their place -- perhaps even purchase a parcel -- in exchange for help around their homestead. As an alternative, if you have art degrees or business degree/sense, web design or any sort of experience that would allow you to set up a home-based business, you might consider finding like-minded individuals to work with and share land/space with. It doesn't need to be a true community life -- it could be you and your partner in a cabin on your own section of land with another couple or couples on theirs. All of you would have individual homes, kitchen gardens, and so forth, but have a community-based business or cooperative, with shared responsibilities for the larger land you are all living on and the common business.

I have some experience with this concept, as my husband and I have been looking for several years at the idea of starting a very small intentional community (really just one or two other couples or singles, as we are extremely eco-minded and do not want to overburden the land). Our plan has always been to live independently with others who share similar goals and ideologies, but to live in a cooperative arrangement where if any of our "intentional" neighbors needs help (say with a harvest or processing food or building a shed, etc.) everyone would pitch in to accomplish the goal. I guess it would be kind of on the model of an Amish community or old-fashioned village -- except without the religious aspects or the strict rules about what everyone could or could not do with their personal life. In a way, what we are after is just being able to pick our neighbors. Those we already have are in no way compatible with our beliefs, lifestyle or personal preferences. It would be great just to have people to talk to who don't think the height of entertainment is a monster truck rally or the latest reality tv show.

If you are interested in this sort of thing, PM me and I will tell you more and share some information about our place. The only thing is that we are in SW Missouri -- about 25 miles east of Branson just above Bull Shoals Lake (we can see it from the high points of our land because it is within walking distance). Our place abuts Mark Twain National Forest near Hercules Glade Wilderness. I know you said you are looking to grow sub-tropicals, but you don't need to go to Florida for that. We are growing a lot of plants that are not supposed to do well in zone 7a (what we have here), and intend to grow more. Its really all about creating micro-climates with walled gardens and greenhouses. And the upside of living in a slightly cooler zone is that by going north a bit (from Florida, I mean) you can grow a greater variety of northern plants as well. It is actually much easier to warm up sub-tropicals than to cool down other plants (like apples, pears, cherries, etc. which will not grow in the deep south).

As for building a house... don't even get me started on the ways to build a house virtually free or at least at minimal cost! Americans as a whole are way to trapped in that stick-frame mindset! It is neither green nor cheap. There are dozens of lower cost and more environmentally friendly ways to build. And your house will be better, stronger and more energy-wise to boot!
 
            
Posts: 12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am no expert but if it were me, once land was acquired I would look into building a house out of a natural material such as stone or cob and then using recycled windows and doors and such to finish it. It would be cheap for materials, but might take awhile to build. Depends if you think the extra time is worth not having to do a job twice. As for the land, I am in the same boat as you, but still in college. I feel like once I had future land paid for, I would be able to figure out how to work out other issues. Land is just so expensive...frustrating to worry about
 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2524
Location: FL
88
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm in North Florida-Columbia County, about 15 miles north of Lake City. If you have specific questions about this area, I may be able to add some local insight. My sister in law is a real estate agent, helped me find this place.

Summer
Plan on 95 every day with high humidity. My old house had no central AC, mostly I got by with a couple of window fans and lots of sweating. Nights can dip into the mid 70s, but the relative humidity increases.

Winter
This is zone 8b/9a. Nights can get into the 20s for a month, with days in the 60s-80s. Supplemental heat will be needed.

Growing
A WIDE range of crops can be grown over the course of the year. Frost can come in November through March, but mostly December through Feb. There may be a couple of weeks of hard freeze at night. If you grow it in the summer up north, you can grow it in the spring and fall down here. Those 3 cool months they call winter can still grow frost hardy plants.

Water
Rainfall averages 50 inches/year with morning dew just about every day. North Florida has an abundance of groundwater, although some areas will have a high iron content. Water left in pipes can quickly develop a strong egg odor (hydrogen sulfide), but is potable. Wells will be anywhere from 100 to 300 feet deep, cost $3-4k. Pipes rarely freeze.

Soil
Sugar sand: practically empty of nutrients, clay, and organic matter. The whole place is a big sand dune. The best crops are pine trees and pasture-you'll see these everywhere. The good news is that there is an abundance of material for compost and mulch. Not much need to double dig garden beds. Roots can penetrate easily. Keeping the soil covered is your best plan.

Critters
I've seen maybe 6 snakes in the last 10 years. Fire ants aren't so bad. Mosquitoes can be kept down by not having any standing water anywhere near you. I've seen one scorpion, he was small and dead. Deer, turkey, wild boar, turtles, every sort of bird imaginable, squirrels, possum, fox, armadillo, raccoons, and an occasional skunk. Oh...and alligators in and near water, watch for them, they can get BIG (20').

Tent
This is doable, cheap as dirt, but lacks amenities. As a shelter for sleeping, it will be hot in the winter, cold in the summer. or something like that.

Camper
I see these on Craigslist all the time. 5 grand will buy one of decent size and good repair. Put it under cover to keep the sun and rain off.

Shed/Portable Building
A small structure can be purchased in the range of $3-5k and financing can be done to give you a payment of 75-150/month. The inside would be studs, but you can do your thing with it. If you move, take it with you. A small structure can be built for $2-5k that would give you some space and comfort. Any construction project in excess of $4k requires a building permit.

Conex
Jacksonville is an hour away, lots of empty shipping containers are available. 8x40 is a standard size. Figure $1-2k, plus another 500 to get it dropped off. Make sure the roof does not leak. These are tough and square, but get mighty hot in the summer sun.

Electric
I pay 11.5¢/kwh. Not too bad. If you have to add electricity to your land, a pole will run you about a grand each, plus a charge for the length of the wire. Most paved roads have electric along the road. If you have to run power more than 100', the cost starts to compete seriously with solar PV.

Things to know
-most roads are lined on both sides with drainage ditches. To drive onto your property, you will need to install a covered culvert. This will run you about $2500.
-Wells run about $3k
-a septic tank now runs about 8k because it has to be raised, and this means a pump for your sewage.
-an electric pole and meter on your house runs about $2k
-Total of these basic utilities: about $15k
-banks wont touch a mobile home built before 1976
-the soil is sand. no stone or clay to work with.
-within an hours drive you can find a dozen farmer's markets

I bought this place about a year and a half ago for 45k. 3.7 acres, mostly pasture, fenced, cross fenced, gates, livestock shelter, 12x24 garage, and a 1972 trailer, 50', that was extended to 20 wide. There are foreclosures and short sales out there, and prices are still falling. With this property, the well and septic were already in place, the electric was hooked up, the driveway had a culvert already in place, it had a habitable structure, and the size was just right for me. For the record, there is no mold problem here, and to my knowledge, no toxic plastics or heavy metals either.

 
Christian McMahon
Posts: 72
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Aria Stroph wrote:I've been interested in permaculture and natural building for a few years now, and have been reading and watching videos voraciously. I'm currently in school (graduating in May!), and my partner and I have been considering what we want to do next. Our "dream" is to live on a plot of land (~5 acres, though the more the better) where we can build a modest home and produce most of our family's basic needs through permaculture practices (particularly woodland gardens/food forests, aquaculture, and heavy emphasis on "useful" fungi), with small sources of income to supplement. Of course, with both of us having been students so recently, we have very little money, and a small chunk of debt (student loans, so not worth it!). So that's the situation, now for the "plan":

At the end of May, once I have completed school and my partner's current job contract is up, we would very much like to move away, leaving behind the city and the life of renting apartments for $8,000 a year. We have somewhat narrowed our desired destination down to three options: Northern Florida, coastal North Carolina (or maybe SC), or Western Oregon (the warmer, the better). Each have their pros and cons, which I won't get into here, but suffice it to say that I'm pushing for FL due to the affordable land, low taxes, and warm weather (I want to grow subtropical plants!).

I would love to just jump right in, buy a plot of land, and magically build a house to live in so we can begin working on the gardening aspects, but alas, I'm no millionaire. We need time to save money, research available land, and so many other things first. However, I'm scared of getting trapped in the "rent to survive" system, living paycheck to paycheck and barely saving a dime while wasting time. I'm so eager to get started, I almost can't bear having to wait until next summer! I would go crazy knowing that it would be many years before I can put my first trees in the ground.

As it stands, I think we could find the money to purchase a few acres somewhere affordable like north FL by the time summer rolls around. But this would leave us without much money, and no place to live (unless we get extremely lucky and find cheap land with a livable home on it). Though I would be willing to live in a tent for a year while building a house, my partner wants (and deserves) slightly more modern accommodations. We've discussed many options, the most reasonable of which are probably either purchasing a used camper or RV, or building some sort of temporary, sturdy shelter.

So, as long-winded as this introduction has been, the advice I am seeking is: Is this possible? Assuming we can afford the land and have...let's say $3000 left over, what methods could we pursue to stay alive while working towards our dream? I'm willing to have a proper job if necessary, of course, but time spent working for money is time not spent working on the house/garden/whatever, and as I mentioned before, I don't want to become trapped wasting time.
I would greatly appreciate a discussion on cheap & quick-to-build shelters, obtaining affordable land, and surviving on little money while building a homestead. Other topics, such as building/zoning codes in north FL or whatever you think is relevant, are also welcome. Thanks for your help, this is a great community!



Look into the following building construction types.
Earthbag, Shipping container, Cob. I think these are the past and future of construction of homes. Needless to say you should contact the building departments in the area your going to settle as they have way to much power to regulate. They may or may not permit earthbag, I have found through research you can do it with enough documentation. Shipping containers may need fresh paint. Cob is ages old and I have only begun researching it. It looks very promising so far.







 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1341
Location: northern California
42
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We homesteaded for years in central Georgia. Started out with a tent and a tiny travel trailer. The land was extremely rural, had an easement driveway with the neighbors (and no culvert...the road is lower than the land and the ditch is on the other side--small dirt road) No other services. We were under the radar....nobody knew we were there who we didn't want to. Outhouse and then humanure compost. PO box in town and eventually a mailbox. Finally a phone line. At least then ('90's-'00's) those agencies (mail, phone company, etc.) didn't communicate with each other or the government to establish whether or not people were living there legally or not. Other people living out there clued us into 4 or 5 rules of thumb to not get caught...1. don't build anything big so it gets noticed on a flyover. 2. don't apply for house insurance....the insurance company will check with the county to be sure there is actually a house there. 3. don't try to hook up to grid power. 4. don't piss off the neighbors. The first cabin I built cost about $50 for 12 feet square. It was scrounged treated fence posts for the main posts in the ground, peeled pine and bamboo poles for the frame, and sheathed with cardboard, followed by two thicknesses of overlapping plastic followed by two thicknesses of carpets overlapped. Most of that came straight out of dumpsters. Stuccoed cement into the roof carpets and mud into the walls. I had five people on the roof of that cabin once and it barely budged, and in ten years, never leaked. The only big expense early on was a well ($3K), with solar pump and homemade cistern. If we had made better friends with the neighbors who had a spring we might have got our drinking water from there and just did rain catchment. From there we gradually added more cabins, fencing, gardens, ponds, and finally more PV. We started with two small panels (maybe 250W total) and two golfcart batteries....this ran a light, a laptop, and a tiny chest refrigerator....worked our way up to 2KW by the time we moved. It seems insane to put a lot of $ into a building early on. The land itself...where it is, the resources on it (think water, soil, timber, climate, location,.....)is worth more of the time and $ in my mind. Alder Burns
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
my inlaws had a summer home on land in Fla and then when he got bad with Alz and eventually died, they sold the property...I'm sure there are a lot of ailing snow birds that may be in that position this time of year, thinking, we won't be able to come back next year.

this would be a good week/month to go and introduce yourself to some elderly snowbirds at places like golf courses or sr centers and ask around if they know people who are talking about not returning next year..

or even put an ad in a local paper looking for such people..you may get a great deal
 
Yone' Ward
Posts: 135
Location: Springdale, WA USA - Cold Mediterranean Climate
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Trailers can be cheap and quick, but be wary. Their metal skins do not breath at all and will collect moisture that will grow mold in the walls. The wet climates you are considering are good for that. My brother ended up tearing his down to the frame and starting over. It cost him about $10K, but he built everything out of the highest quality materials, like hickory for the cabinets, because he knew all the wear and tear of daily use would be focused. Typically the cabinets are made out of whatever is cheapest and thus will suffer daily use poorly. Same goes for carpet and other flooring, wall coverings, etc. If you choose trailer, focus on being out of it in a year or two.
 
Char Abbott
Posts: 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A great way to purchase a piece of land and not break the bank is through owner financing. Yes, there is interest but you don't have to pay a few thousand dollars out of pocket.
Owner financing can be tricky so make sure to do your research if you buy land from an online company or any company in general. Ask them questions and make sure there are no gray areas.
If you're still interested in Oregon, we do have some properties for sale. http://smile4uinc.com/property.php?stateid=38&type=listing
We are would love to answer any questions on purchasing land, if you have any.
 
Chris Badgett
pollinator
Posts: 289
Location: Whitefish, Montana
10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Try a wall tent like this: http://www.alaskatent.com/

I lived in wall tents for 8 summers and even one winter in Alaska:

 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 771
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would buy first the piece of land. I would opt for the smaller size but closer to amenities as costs of driving go up. I would not quit the jobs.
I would use the land first as a weekender (at least for one of you). One or even both must have a job. I think you cannot expect that the land feeds you immediately, you ruin a home business and build a house. What is your experience? Are you a builder?
What I saw around here is that people who build houses their own in a reasonable timeframe are builders. There are too many dreams at once and you can't realize all of them. What about building a very modest but more conventional sort of house while you are still working in the city, scale your city lifestyle back meanwhile and get a builder out to make you a house at least to the lockable stage.
It seems you have no experience in agriculture, that needs time and work, how will you succeed with a home business, building a home and trying to do agriculture?
 
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!